They say that everyone has the ability to create, that we are all creative beings.
I didn’t always believe this to be true because I always thought of creatitiy as being artisitc , emphasis on “art.” Definitely not my thing.
In fact, I’m one of the few people I know who stresses out at Painting With a Twist. And crafting projects, those “easy” ones designed to re-purpose every day household items into some beautiful, functional object, tend to put me in a bad mood.
When it comes to being innovative and creative, I always thought:
It’s not my thing.
I don’t know what I’m doing.
It’s never going to look right.
Words have power.
I didn’t think about how that negative mindset further inhibited my already tentative creativity.
My creativity was listening to that negative self-talk!
To get past the negative self-talk enough to be able to own my creative capabilites, I had to let go of 2 things:
Expectations, for the outcome, the experience, and the response to it
Self-judgement, which doesn’t allow for compassion, understanding, and kindness
Letting go of expectations and self-judgement have allowed me to explore my creativity and stop comparing myself an my abilities to others.
It was hard at first.
When I started to crochet, my practice swatches never looked like the swatches the YouTube crocheters made. But I kept at it.
Now, after a year of lots of trial and error, I’ve learned that I can start with the intention of making one thing and end up making something totally different, like when I started making a vest and it turned into a bag.
I’m not sure if we’re born with different levels of creativity or if we all have enormous potential for it, but I now believe creativity and the ability to create has less to do with talent and more to do with mindset.
Here are some things to think about to help you get past the self judgement and start flexing your creative muscles.
It’s for you.
Creativity is as individual as you are. What would you want to create? Do you feel drawn toward writing, painting, woodworking, interior design, gardening, photography, paper making, pottery, soap making, cooking, music…? Dabble in it. Try it out.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do and think, I could never do that, then ask yourself, Why not? What you create is for you and doesn’t need to be shared with anyone unless you decide to share it.
Do it for the sake of the experience.
Failure is part of the process.
Your first attempt may not come out as you expected or as you envisioned. That’s okay! Don’t let that stop you from continuing if you enjoy doing it. You’ll get better if you stick with it.
Especially if you’re dabbling into something you think you might like but don’t know for sure, start small. It can be very discouraging to pour money and effort into a project you’re not ready for.
Baby steps. Start with the basics and then build on those to the next level.
Do it your way.
There are helpful kits, patterns, and about a gazillion instructional videos about “How To” do almost anything. Use them to help you get started. Or you can hire a coach, take a class, read a book, phone a friend. Whichever way helps you get started and/or to the next level.
We are all creative beings, even if we don’t really think creativity is our thing.
Letting go of expectations and self-judgement allows each of us to engage in the creative process more fully. Being more creative could mean taking an innovative approach to a problem or actually creating something.
Sometimes the first step is letting go of the limiting beliefs that tell us we are not the creative type.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject! What helps you get past expectations and be more creative?
A recent encounter with a stranger at a Tuesday Morning store in my neighborhood reminded me of how important it is to be mindful of how our words and actions can affect others.
We’re still practicing social distancing where I live, but retail stores are opening up again and I couldn’t wait to stop by one of my favorite stores.
A woman wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat, sunglasses, and a light blue face mask that covered her nose and mouth, waited by the door.
“Are they open?” I asked.
She checked her watch. “They open at 10, I think. We got about 10-minutes,” she said through her mask.
Talking amongst ourselves
That’s how I came to be standing on the sidewalk in the shadow of the building on a hazy Friday morning. A few minutes later another woman walked up, she had a black mask pulled down over her chin.
Standing a safe distance from each other, we got to talking about the current situation–COVID, quarantine, social distancing–and how happy we were that stores were opening again.
The woman in the straw hat said she had just gotten laid off from her job but had not had any success filing for unemployment. “I’m 68 years old,” she said, “but I still want to work. The president of my company said they planned to recall part of the workforce, but said if you’re over 65…you should just stay home.”
Even though her former employer’s leadership may not have explicitly said or meant it, the message she heard, loud and clear, was:
You, over-65-year-old people, are the problem.
We don’t want you back.
Go home and stay there.
It would be better for everyone if you just disappear.
Sounds harsh, doesn’t it?
It would be easy to explain the company policy away and say, “I’m sure that’s not what they meant.” Maybe even assume she was being oversensitive.
Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t.
But what struck me is how policy—public, corporate, even personal—sends messages beyond words. It’s through our actions, how we live and treat others, that speaks volumes about what we value.
What I learned about her in our short conversation that morning was that this woman is active in her church, sings in the choir and has lots of church friends. The quarantine has cut her off from all that. She lives alone and is ready to get back to life and get back to a job she loved.
But now they don’t seem to want her back because she’s over 65 and they seem to think people over 65 should stay out of sight out of mind.
That impromptu, casual, social-distanced, sidewalk conversation left an impression on me.
That company president’s words made this woman feel unvalued and irrelevant. He probably didn’t intend to leave that impression, but that was her takeaway.
I felt really bad for her. She loved her job and didn’t want to leave it and now she felt a real sense of loss at yet another thing being taken away from her.
The virus hasn’t changed our need for community and relevance and value. If this whole thing has taught us anything it’s that we need human connection and community.
And especially now, when people are more physically isolated, people need to know that they matter.
You and I may not be able to do a lot to help the current situation, but small acts of kindness can go a long way at this time of social distancing.
Here are a few small things we can do to build connection and community during this time of isolation.
Words matter. Choose them well.
It’s hard to be mindful of the power of our words even in the best of circumstances, but it may be even more important now, especially when it comes to interacting with strangers. It may not seem like a big deal to say “Thank you” to the grocery store clerk, but they’re not robots. Acknowledge them.
Phone a friend.
It happens to me all the time. I have a friend who’s been on my mind and I really want to call them, but every time I think about it, it’s too late, I’m busy, or it’s not the perfect time. When I finally stop putting it off and just make the call already, I’m always glad I did.
Encourage a fellow human.
You may not have many chances to encourage people in the current situation, but don’t be afraid to offer a kind socially distanced gesture of encouragement, like phoning a friend or neighbor, supporting a local eatery, or leaving a positive comment about a service you’re received.
Or go above and beyond to show you care.
One of my family members recently put care packages together for neighbors who live alone. All women. She delivered the packages the day before Mother’s Day with a note saying, We’ve been thinking about you. The gesture surprised them and brought a few to tears of joy.
What a brilliant way to show people they are loved!
Be mindful of your actions and how they may be perceived.
A friend of mine recently made a run to a grocery store and even though her city leaders strongly encourage people to wear masks, she noticed half the crowd wasn’t. She didn’t feel safe being in that environment.
And when people don’t respect the call for social distancing, it makes me wonder, Do they just not care?
Still, what other people do and say is out of your control. The best each of us can do is to speak and act in ways that reflect our own “personal policy.”
Our individual policies in action
If you’ve ever worked for a company you love, their policies probably made you feel valued, like you mattered. They cared about whether you were there or not.
That’s highly motivating for people. And wouldn’t that be what you want your “personal policy” to reflect?
We can do that every day by acting in a manner that reflects a policy of caring and kindness.
That was true before COVID-19 and will be true when COVID-19 is history. But now it seems even more important to take every opportunity to lift people up even in the small ways you can.
When news of COVID-19 in China broke, I sympathized. It sounded like a horrible outbreak with so many people sick and dying.
But in my mind, the problem was “over there,” not close to me or anyone I know.
Then news broke about COVID-19 cases exploding in Italy. Seemingly overnight, people in a certain region were forced to quarantine.
My daughter lives about a 45-minute drive from Venice with her Air Force husband. From my home in Texas, I heard the outbreak affected Northern Italy, but where exactly?
News reports said cases were in the Lombardy Region, including the city of Milan.
Was that close to where my daughter lives?
Would it stay contained in that region?
She had been looking forward to relatives visiting. For months, my sister and her family had planned their visit to Italy, securing passports, watching airfare for the right time to buy, planning all they would see, The Vatican, The Colisseum, The Statue of David, etc.
I scoured the news multiple times a day for updates, for news of regions affected by lockdowns and number of cases being reported.
Of course, there was nothing I could do. Nothing anyone could do but wait and watch to see what would happen.
Life went on as normal with trains still running, businesses still open except in the Lombardy Region.
But it quickly spread. Major events in Venice, like Carnival, were cut short or cancelled.
That was too close, but I still held my breath hoping naively that her region would not be affected.
Then, February 25, all that wishful thinking came to a definite end.
And just like that….
Travel had not been restricted at that point (borders were open) and my daughter had taken a short trip to Amsterdam with friends.
Upon their arrival in Venice, they were greeted at the airport by officials checking temperatures of arriving travelers. They knew the home they were returning to was not the one they left just days before.
All schools were to be closed the next day, February 26, but official lockdown still did not yet affect her town.
A few days later, she was at the town square enjoying an afternoon coffee with friends, who sat a safe social distance away. Then the police arrived and alerted the shop owner that were to officially closed. All patrons were sent home.
They were in official lockdown, which meant no one could leave their own municipality and social gatherings were no longer allowed. Essential trips only, like for food or doctor appointments were allowed.
What made this COVID-19/Quarantine situation all the more concerning was that her husband, my son-in-law, was deployed. She was alone at her home with her dog, Buster, and thank God for him.
Deadly virus, drastic measures
More people started dying from Coronavirus and the Italian government clamped down the restrictions. Borders were closed, essential travel only, be prepared to show documents.
I’m not sure how I would have managed in that situation, but I think she’s managed incredibly well.
Of course, a few short weeks later, cities all across the US would experience a similar outcome.
COVID-19 started affecting people in the US in early to mid-March, but for me, it started in February when it hit Italy.
After only three weeks of my city’s “Stay at home” order, I was feeling restless and asked my daughter if she had any advice about how to help others get through these strange times.
She offered these bits of wisdom:
This (COVID-19) is serious. People should take precautions now, because it spreads. And even when people knew it was spreading, they were still going on cruises and acting like nothing was happening.
As bad as it sucks to be locked down in your house, it’s what needs to be done. And better sooner than later.
Stay home. Listen to local officials. Keep your social distance. The sooner you just do it, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to life.
Stay connected through chat groups, zoom calls.
Some days you might be super-productive and some days you might just want to lie on the couch and do nothing. You gotta be okay with that.
It’s better to stick to a routine. Get up, get dressed, let the dog out, make coffee. Just do the normal things you always do when you’re at home.
I agree with my daughter’s way of thinking and I understand that not everyone does. Official mandates have caused deep financial hardship for many people.
When will we be able to “get back to normal”? And what will “normal” look like?
Hopefully we’ll discover the answers to those questions in good health and better understanding.
I decided to learn to crochet mostly because I liked the idea of making stuff people could wear. I had no idea learning to crochet would reinforce many life lessons for me.
My new hobby came about after I’d finished a few needlepoint projects and wanted to try something different. How hard can it be? I thought.
My mom, who sews beautifully and used to crochet, gave me a quick lesson on how to start a chain using just my fingers because neither of us had a hook.
I went to a yarn store by my house where the sales clerk recommended a bamboo hook and offered a bit of yarn remnants (project leftovers). “You’ll want to get a light colored one so you can see what you’re doing,” she advised.
I decided on a small pastel pink yarn that looked like it could have been used to make a blanket for a baby girl.
With yarn and hook in hand and just enough information to wade into the crochet ocean, I was on my way.
My fingers cramped as they adjusted to the new movements and I stitched long chains, then pulled them out and chained them again. I was finally ready to try a turn, means hooking the yarn to the original chain and making another row.
My fingers resisted moving as instructed on the Youtube videos. I strangled that first ball of pink yarn into submission. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my stitches were so tight I nearly had them in a chokehold.
My practice swatches looked like the equivalent of writing with the non-dominant hand. You could tell what it was, kind of, but pretty shabby.
But I kept at it.
That pink yarn was starting to look a little frayed, so I ventured into a sewing and craft store for more. In the yarn aisle stocked with hundreds of skeins of various brands, colors, material, I had no idea what I wanted or what was best for a beginner to use.
I met a woman there in the aisle who said she was new to crocheting too.
She had already made a bag and lots of blankets. And she taught herself.
I was impressed and envious.
I felt such a long way from where she was. She said she’d only been at it a few months. I’d been at it a few weeks and my stuff was all crap.
“You’ll get it,” she encouraged. “It takes practice.”
While watching TV and listening to audiobooks, I practiced my basic single crochet stitch and figured I’d graduate to more complex stitches later.
I made a coaster with bright-yellow yarn I’d forgotten I had.
The coaster turned out in more of a rhombus shape not square (due to not counting and turning correctly) and rolled up on the ends (due to stranglehold stitches).
But it was done.
I thought I was ready to move on to something bigger and decided to make a scarf.
There were tons of instructional YouTube videos, but the problem with those is that experts do them and make everything look so easy. I had to constantly rewind, watch, rewind again, stitch, undo the stitch, watch again, etc.
That period of learning tested my patience and I’m not sure what kept me going but I did.
The scarf turned out wearable and functional, not beautiful. The edges were somewhat curvy, not clean, so I decided to put a border on it. Unfortunately, my stitches are so tight I actually broke my bamboo crochet hook trying to add the border. So I added fringe.
Again, not beautiful, but it’s done.
Since that first project, I have made a blanket for each of my grandkids, several scarves, and a potholder.
I have a yarn stash like any respectable crocheter and have attempted more complex projects, but find crochet patterns overwhelming.
I know the basics and enjoy my new hobby.
It occurred to me recently that I’ve learned a lot from it. Crochet life lessons, so to speak. These are things I know and learning to crochet has reminded me.
Strive for progress, not perfection.
I watched Youtube videos following every step as meticulously as I could. My practice swatches never turned out like theirs. So frustrating! Theirs were perfect. Mine weren’t even close to perfect and hardly resembled theirs.
And while that was frustrating, I had to be okay with my imperfect product because that’s where I was. I had to give myself a chance to get better.
Needing my swatches to be perfect would have stopped me right at the beginning.
Crochet would have been added to the list of things I always wanted to do but never got the hang of.
Better to strive for progress over perfection.
Comparing myself to others is unproductive.
That fellow beginning crocheter who said it took her a few months to teach herself and had already made a bag impressed me. Maybe I was a slow learner or not cut out to create anything. I always figured I didn’t have the “creative gene” that runs in my family.
My mom sews beautifully and my sister is an expert at creating beautiful work from garage sale, thrift store, or trash pile odds and ends.
I never had much success in that area.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. With a little instruction and A LOT of patience, I can. I may never be an expert crocheter and I’m certainly not a prodigy, like this impressive young man, Jonah.
And that’s okay. I’d like to get better and I’ve already made huge improvements since that very first wonky swatch.
Sometimes the best thing to do is to start over.
Crochet patterns overwhelm me, but I found an infinity scarf pattern that seemed pretty simple. It used simple stitches and then connected each round at a starting point. It seemed so simple!
I was using a super soft velvet yarn and the pattern sample was luxurious and I was so excited to make it. And then, about four loops in, I looked at it. Closely. And realized somehow, some way, the yarn had twisted.
It would never fall right. And no matter how much I wished it hadn’t happened, or wished I would have checked it sooner, there was no salvaging it. It would not work out as it was. If I wanted to make the scarf, I had to completely undo it and start over.
As upsetting as that was, I had to cut my loss of time and energy and be grateful I hadn’t gone further before realizing my error.
Still, it bothered me that I didn’t know where I’d gone wrong. It all seemed to be going smoothly! I regretted my error, but felt lucky that I could easily pull the yarn and undo every stitch until it’s just a long string of yarn.
Of course life isn’t that simple, but sometimes we hang on to things that just aren’t going to work out no matter how much you try to force it. Starting over seems impossible and sometimes it may be, but more often it’s the heavy feeling of regret at being left with just a long, frazzled string of yarn instead of the hope of having something amazing.
I eventually had to abandon the pattern. Could not get the yarn to stop twisting.
Be okay with being a beginner and keep at it.
So I’ve been doing this for a few months and you’d think I’d be able to crochet square blankets by now, but nope. I got so frustrated with myself when I was halfway through a recent project and realized it was taking on a trapezoid shape when it should have been a square.
(I resist counting my stitches 😐 )
For a second, I thought. That’s it. I’m terrible at this. But I know that I’m terrible at counting my stitches. It’s math. I don’t like math.
So how do you get better at counting stitches if you hate to count your stitches? You decide to just do it and then practice doing it and figure out a way to count without it crushing your crochet spirit.
Because if you want to make square blankets, you have to count your stitches. (I tell myself this but at the back of my mind I wonder if there’s another way!)
To get to the next level, you may need a coach or teacher.
I attempted enough times to know that if I want to explore more complex projects and be able to follow a pattern, I’m going to need instruction.
My instructor will need to be VERY patient, knowledgeable, and kind. She’ll be able to see what I’m doing, point out where I’m going wrong, and steer me in the right direction. Also, give me incremental goals and skills to develop. My imaginary crochet coach is amazing.
When you think about it, having a coach makes sense. Every professional basketball team has a shooting coach, professional football teams have a kicking coach, pro golfers have a coach.
Don’t go it alone
I’ve found a crochet meet up of crocheters and knitters who meet once a week to chat and crochet and knit. I’ve only made the meet up a few times, but they’re always welcoming and helpful. They’re at all different levels, but the majority are very knowledgeable and I would say, expert. The differences in yarn materials, brands, stitches, strategies, etc.
We talk about books, movies, our families. And we have crochet/knitting in common.
Crochet and life lessons
I like to crochet, but never thought venturing into this new hobby would reinforce life lessons that have been reinforced again and again over the years.
Is crochet life?
But for me, it’s like another branch of learning. That I get to create something to keep my neck warm in winter is a bonus.
So when you feel discouraged by some new challenge, remember these things:
Strive for progress, not perfection
Comparing yourself to others in unproductive
Sometimes the best thing to do is start over
Be okay with being a beginner and keep at it
To get to the next level, you may need a coach or teacher
Don’t go it alone
Have you picked up and hobbies recently? What have you learned? I’d love to hear from you.
You know things don’t happen by themselves, that your plans, dreams, aspirations, bucket list items, things you’ve always wanted to do…don’t just happen by themselves.
Action is required. Your action.
At times of uncertainty, goals may be the furthest thing from your mind.
Like now, when the world seems at a standstill and COVID-19 is affecting communities, families, and individuals directly, it’s easy to think, what I want is not important right now.
Maybe your dreams and aspirations aren’t a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.
And if you take action now, you’ll be in a better position to reach your goals when the Coronavirus crisis is history.
Here are some things you can do now:
Set your goals.
Time goes and goes. Days turn to weeks and weeks to months and months to years…you get the idea.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but have never developed a plan for how to accomplish it, there’s a good chance it’s a wish and not a goal.
What makes it a goal?
First, believe you can do it, even if it seems like it could never happen.
Then accept the vulnerability that comes with that big goal.
Next, and possibly most important, you must devise a plan to make it happen.
If you take those first steps toward your goals, you’re on your way. If not, it may be just a wish.
Goal or Wish?
I’ll give you an example of something I used to want to do, but only ever wished it, like a dream, and never made it a goal.
I used to, in a Walter Mitty kind of way, want to be a backup singer. I dreamed of doing the moves old school, like the Pips did for Gladys Knight.
Never did it. Probably never will, but OMG that would have been amazing.
Either because I didn’t think I could, didn’t know how I would, or just didn’t have the courage to make it real, without a plan to make it happen, being a backup singer stayed a wish for me, not a goal.
Now, the only backup singing gigs I have are in my mind as I dance and sing in my living room or on the occasional Karaoke night : )
Don’t let this be you!
Set your goals. It’s okay if they seem slightly out of reach, maybe even crazy and unattainable.
Then come up with a plan to make them happen.
If you’re not sure exactly what goals you want to set for yourself, you’re first step may be to dig deep and explore some ideas about what you’d like to do.
And try not to look at it as a test. There are no right or wrong answers and it’s okay if you start something and then find it’s not what you thought it would be. You’ve learned something in the process.
Have a plan to work toward your goals.
Don’t keep them all in your head. Write them down, post them someplace, come up with a plan to meet them, jot down incremental goals in your calendar.
Find whatever works to help you keep them at the forefront of your mind. Break the steps into small, attainable goals to keep you from being overwhelmed and giving up before you start.
Do what you can.
These days of social distancing and sheltering in place are not normal. You may not be able to do everything you normally would, but you can still do a lot.
Reach out to people who you trust and who may be able to help or advise you about how to move forward. You may find there’s a lot that’s out of your control, but even if you can’t do everything you’re used to doing, there’s still a lot you can do.
Approach with enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill once said, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Think about it. Why would you want to work toward something you’re not excited about? When I was working on my first book, I had days when I felt not even an ounce of enthusiasm about what I was doing. Those were long and dark days, perfect for giving up.
What a different experience to approach with enthusiasm. I felt a greater sense of accomplishment when I met my daily goals, felt greater compassion toward myself and my work, knew I was in it for the long haul, and felt more determined to finish.
Doing these things:
Developing a plan
Doing what you can
Approaching with enthusiasm
are simple first steps you can take now to help you build momentum toward reaching your goals.
I don’t believe it’s End of Days. We’ll get through this uncertain time, but it’s a good reminder that none of us has forever to do what we always thought we would do.
Action is required. Do what you can now to move you closer to your goals.
Need some inspiration to get started on setting your goals? Check out If not now, when? on the blog.
My family and I were big fans of The Walking Dead a few years ago. It sparked some interesting discussion around what we would do in the unlikely event of a zombie apocalypse.
My son and husband went through a bow and arrow phase, then an axe-throwing phase.
It’s for fun and recreation, of course, but we also joked about it being great training for the Zombie Apolalypse.
We’d imagine banding together as a family to fight off zombies in a Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead way, not in a Night of the Living Dead or Walking Dead way. The latter being way too terrifying.
It’s a joke we can run a long way with, for sure.
But we’re not bomb shelter, doomsday preppers kind of people. We don’t have a closet full of canned food or MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat).
And although we kid about preparing for the Zombie Apolcalypse, it did raise some interesting discussions about what we would do in the event of an actual catastrophic event.
COVID-19 pandemic is not the Zombie Apolalypse, but it has disrupted every aspect of our lives.
And it’s got me thinking about human nature and the way we humans act in times of uncertainty.
The saying goes, We show our true selves in times of crisis.
So the question is, who are you? (Matt Damon’s character asks the question in the movie Ford vs. Ferrari which I streamed this past weekend so I’ll just borrow it here. Great movie, BTW.)
Am I the type of person who’ll do anything for my family, including buying up all the toilet paper and clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer and masks so I can turn a profit on eBay?
Because I can make a nice profit and my family needs to live too. Supply and demand, baby. You need hand sanitizer, can’t find it, don’t mind spending $10 on something that costs me a dollar? Sold.
Hey, extreme circumstances, y’know?
These are not normal times, for sure. And what can any of us do about it? We’re just trying to make it through.
Before I judge that guy, I can look at my own actions. Am I acting in a responsible and ethical way?
I’ve been looking for a dozen eggs for a while. Haven’t found any. But the terrible thing is, I have about a half dozen. Why am I looking for something I already have?
The current situation: Mark and I have what we need even though it may not be exactly what we want.
Plus, we’ve ordered plenty of takeout in an attempt to do what little we can to help our local businesses. And so we don’t have to cook.
Those are little things.
Some people are doing big things. Health care workers, public servants and non-profit staff and volunteers who care help people in the community are at the front lines of this thing. They may have to make tough choices that affect lives and livelihoods.
Not me. My job right now is to do what I can, like don’t panic buy, follow social-distancing guidelines, and stay home.
That sounds so much less bad-ass than fighting off zombies, but that’s where we are.
We show our true selves in times of crisis, or said another way, as you pass the days with the current COVID-19 reality, consider the question: Who are you?
I’m trying to get in the daily habit of using the most uplifting affirmations I have in my arsenal.
Why? Because they’re amazing!
When I feel sad, frustrated, discouraged, angry, or doubtful about life and things, saying this one, simple statement (affirmation) helps to shift my mindset:
I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.
What exactly is an affirmation and why would I use one?
An affirmation is a positive statement you can say mentally or out loud, a statement that says what you want or who you want to be. Using affirmations is a way of claiming that thing for yourself, of putting your desire out into the Universe.
Lots of self-help books recommend practicing affirmations as a way of maintaining a positive mindset.
Shift the focus
This favorite affirmation works like magic to help me shift the focus from self-doubt to positivity.
It’s something I say to shift my mindset, to remind myself that I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful.
The thing about this affirmation is that I don’t feel vain or braggy when I say it because it’s really not about me. I didn’t make myself brilliant, bright, and beautiful.
Which leads me to another one of my favorites: I am a miracle of creation. The force that guides the stars guides me too.
Whether you call the “force that guides the stars” God or the Universe or Mother Nature or whatever, the idea is that I (imperfect me) am an amazing part of creation, no less than the stars.
And so are you.
You are brilliant, bright, and beautiful.
Sounds simple. Does it work?
When I feel unmotivated and down on myself and like I have nothing to offer anyone and I’m a screw up and my work is of no significance and tons of other negative thoughts that knock me down, these affirmations help lift me up.
I challenge you to give it a try when you feel discouraged or frustrated.
Say it with conviction: I am brilliant, bright, and beautiful. Repeat as needed. Let the words sink in until you feel them to your bones.
If these affirmations don’t quite work for you, find another one you like.
Here are some ideas:
I have all I need to create the life I desire.
Love is the answer.
I choose the path of courage.
Today is what I have and I will make the most of it.
I let go of all I can’t control. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
One day at a time.
Find one that works for you and then practice it.
Say it every day, several times a day if you can.
But at the very least, when you need a mindset shift remember to affirm yourself.
Remember that you are brilliant, bright, and beautiful. You are a miracle of creation.
I’d heard about Dolly Parton’s America podcast, had seen it come up as one of the most popular podcasts on my phone (Applepodcasts).
Not sure why I passed it up at first. I like Dolly, but I’m not a huge Country Music fan. I only know her pop songs, like “9 to 5” and “I Will Always Love You.” I couldn’t see the point of the podcast.
But it kept coming up so I decided to give it a listen.
Just a few minutes into Episode #1, I was hooked.
Dolly Parton’s America is a 9 Episode podcast that dives into Dolly Parton, the Unifier.
The show came about when Had Abumrad, a journalist who grew up in Dolly’s home state of Tennessee, attended a Dolly Parton concert in New York city.
He had never given much thought to just how big Dolly was, never thought much about her presence.
Until the concert. He marveled at the wide range of people of all races, ages, nationalities, and income levels who love her. He wondered, How could this country singer from Tennessee bring all these people together? Could she be a Unifier even in the current climate of political polarization?
He wanted to learn more. And, it turns out, he had an “in” to getting an interview with Dolly Parton. His dad knows her!(Seems odd, but the show covers the connection.)
He started with one interview which turned into the WNYC’s 9 episode podcast: Dolly Parton’s America.
I found the podcast interesting, funny, and entertaining. You don’t have to be a fan to get something out of it, but especially if you love Dolly, it’s a must listen.
Dolly Parton’s story is a rags (literally) to riches story, for sure. But she’s also super smart, talented, candid, and seems to genuinely care about people.
My big takeaways and what I learned from Dolly Parton on this podcast:
Stay the course
Believe in yourself
Look for the good in people
Keep your sense of humor
If you’re going to be the butt of a joke, beat ’em to the punch
Know what you believe
Stand up for yourself
Ask me anything.
The conversations about her work, career, beliefs, and attitudes are entertaining and enlightening.
Here’s a list of the Episode titles and a little bit about what’s covered in each:
Episode 1: Sad Ass Song
Covers her persona, her songwriting and music tradition, and the lasting themes in her music
Episode 2: I Will Always Leave You
She answers questions about her long career, how she had to stand up for herself, and how following her intuition made all the difference
Episode 3: Tennessee Mountain Trance
We learn about Dolly’s roots and how her songs about home resonate with people on a larger scale
Episode 4: Neon Moss
Expands on the idea of home and the longing we sometimes feel for something long gone
Episode 5: Dollitics
How Dolly handles politics by not handling politics
Episode 6: The Only One For Me, Jolene
How many different ways can you interpret a song that seems to have an obvious message? If the song is “Jolene,” a whole bunch of ways.
Episode 7: Dolly Parton’s America
There is a class at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville called Dolly Parton’s America. This episode discusses America in the context of the South and Appalachia as it is explored in the class.
Episode 8: Dixie Disappearance
A “Dixie” controversy at Dollywood and the larger issue of addressing the injustices of the past and the symbols that commemorate them.
Episode 9: She’s Alive!
Dolly talks about religion, her faith, and her plans to have her music far outlive her.
Also, 2 bonus episodes feature her music performed by other artists.
For more information, click here to go to the Podcast webpage
I’ve been struggling to stay focused lately, or more to the point, struggling to not want to be distracted when I have stuff to do.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about listening better. And, yeah, I’m working on it.
But focusing on being a better listener has made me realize my very self-sabatoging tendency to allow distractions to shift my focus.
I allow myself to be distracted by things, people, stuff, and, here’s the biggee, I tend to actually look for things to distract myself — stuff that sucks me in and keeps me from work/tasks/commitments that matter to me.
Distractions abound. And when I’m bored, tired, out of my groove, or wanting to do anything other than what I’m doing, I look for a distraction.
Especially when the task is difficult, tedious, boring, or otherwise unappealing. That’s when I most want to look at/think about/read about something else, which keeps me from doing what’s most important to me.
Must stay focused, but….squirrel!
Recently, I’d been working on a blogpost when, for no good reason, I logged on to Facebook. I had no business there, no real purpose for going there other than to distract myself. All I wanted was a little diversion, just a quick glance at something else.
Well don’t you know, I got sucked into the Facebook vortex.
20 minutes later!…I finally pulled myself away and logged off.
And it isn’t just FB. I might pick up my phone to check the weather, but I end up reading news headlines and checking Instagram and maybe looking to see what’s showing at the movies. Or maybe I’ll just have some Valentines’ Day chocolate.
So, with a conservative estimate on a regular day, I can easily spend about an hour on stuff not in line with my priorities.
7 hours a week. 30 hours a month. 360 hours a year. That’s 15 days. Of my life!
Almost certainly not.
Someone once said: Time is our most valuable non-renewable resource.
(I looked it up and according to Goodreads.com, it was Albert-Laszlo Barabasi in his book, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do)
You are so right, Albert!
The clock is ticking, man.
And if time is my most valuable non-renewable resource then what am I doing wasting so much of it?
I had to ask myself, how can I shift my mindset to help me stay focused on what I’m doing?
Here’s what I know: I get way more long-lasting satisfaction from completing something on my “To Do” list than from scanning news headlines, checking email, or mindless snacking.
When I complete a task from my “To Do” list I know I’ve done what I set out to do and spent my nonrenewable resource on something that’s important to me.
And that sense of accomplishment has a snowball effect. It gives me momentum.
I’ve proven to myself that I can focus and accomplish what I set out to accomplish. (Honestly, even if it’s something as “boring” as doing the laundry. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary, and now…done. Check.)
Here are a few strategies I’m using to combat my tendency to seek distractions to avoid important but difficult/boring/challenging/mundane tasks.
Have a plan
I work well with a “To Do” list and a calendar. On the calendar I mark my deadlines, some self-imposed and arbitrary, others imposed by others and firm, like April 15 tax filing deadline.
By Sunday night, or at the latest Monday morning, I have a plan for my week. I list what I will work on every day. That’s my “To do” list. If for some reason I don’t get to something on my “To Do” list for that day, I push it back to the following day or earliest possible day.
What works best for me is scheduling slightly more than I think I can do. And then I prioritize my list, taking into account any factors that may affect the schedule.
I’ve been using this strategy for a while and I’m surprised how lost I am without a plan.
The other day I had nothing on my schedule except to spend the day with a relative. She got sick and had to cancel. I was left with my blank schedule board and I had to think for a few minutes about how to best regroup.
If you want to stay more focused, try writing a daily plan.
Things are going to come up, which is all the more reason to seize the day when you have the chance.
When you do what’s important instead of squandering your life away on stupid stuff that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, you’re better prepared for the unexpected.
It’s like money in the bank for a rainy day.
Set a timer
Depending on your work environment and level of potential distractions, I’ve found it very helpful to give myself a set amount of time to work on something on my list.
Let’s say, for example, I have an idea for a blogpost. I know what I want to say and I’m ready to write. I set my timer for 30 minutes.
Everything’s great, I’m rolling along, but then I hit a snag. I get into the weeds and start questioning myself, doubting the validity of my message, and dozens of other things that sidetrack me.
That’s when I’m most likely to start looking for something else to do or think about.
But if I’ve set my timer, I’ve committed to write until my timer goes off. I know I can stay focused and write for 30 minutes, so I keep going.
Often, pushing through that yuck phase gets me back on track so when my timer goes off, I find I can go another 30 minutes.
If 30 minutes seems too long, start with 10 or 20 minutes until you build your stamina, your “stay focused” muscle.
Set your priorities and purpose
When I worked as an elementary school librarian, I had so much stuff to do every day. Inventory, shelving books, ordering books, researching books to order, teaching classes, etc, in addition to the incidental interruptions like fire drills, staff meetings in the library, etc. There was no way I could do everything I had to do.
So I had to prioritize. I gave myself deadlines, did what I could, made daily lists, and tried to remember that, above all things, I was there for the students.
I tried very hard to keep my purpose in mind: Connect kids with books and foster a love of reading.
Every day was a challenge and I probably lost my cool a few times. (A few dozen times if you count lunch duty.) But I tried very hard to stay focused on what was most important.
Those strategies again
So when you want to stay focused and get stuff done
Have a plan
Set your timer
Set your priorities and purpose
We can do more than we think we can, but only if we stay focused on the tasks at hand, set our priorities, and treat time as our most valuable nonrenewable resource.
Can you relate? Do you put off tasks you’ll know you’ll eventually have to do? Do you leave work that really matters to you for stuff that doesn’t matter to you much at all? What strategies do you use to get past it?